There is much in this film (based on a book by Ben Ames Williams) that matches up with my experience of human nature, particularly in the character played by Hedy Lamar. Watching women in persuit of their hearts' desires has often led me to say "God help the poor fool who gets between a woman and the thing she wants," and Rudyard Kipling to write, "For The Female of the Species
is deadlier than the male."
We are shown the impact upon a young child of having an absent mother (who abandoned the family) and the broken father who turns to drink because of it. Nevertheless, like most young girls, she learns early on the special power that is hers as a result of her feminine charm, her vulnerability (which stimulates protectiveness in others and leads them to underestimate her), and the presumption of her innocence (so that she may lie through her teeth and yet be believed); we are made to understand her awareness when she says, "Just as soon as I grow up, we'll have everything we want, 'cause I'm going to be beautiful."
These childhood scenes set the stage for a very credible femme fatale, especially in her effect upon men, who seldom have learned anything useful about the ways of women or their own emotions until their lives are half over, if even by then. (It's just like school: illiteracy should not come as a surprise when no one is teaching the kids to read.)
For me, at least, the credibility begins to depart when Hedy's character has her first sudden attack of conscience. That can certainly happen in Real Life, but the way that it is portrayed in the film just doesn't seem to fit. The story has already become increasingly melodramatic by then, and begins to acquire the character of a morality play. The final scene felt more like something from a daytime soap opera than part of a compelling story with which I could connect.
I call this a "credibility leak" because it reminds me of the computer programming error known as a "memory leak": in this case, the writers keep asking the audience for more and more Suspension of Disbelief, while forgetting to "put some of it back," until the story finally crashes.
Though the story falls apart for me, the cast are terrific, and make the most of the screenplay. Hedy Lamar plays her part to the hilt, with energy and intensity. Two stars for the story, five for the performance, 3.5 for the film.
I downloaded 'Strange_Woman_1946.mp4'. There is an intense echo in the audio during the early portion, and the audio drops out entirely for a few minutes (though pops and static can still be heard) at about 1:25. Otherwise, an excellent quality print.